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In Review: Complete Publicity Plans

Posted on September 29, 2006 by Kathryn Regina.

Sandra Beckwith’s book Complete Publicity Plans is an expert do-it-yourself guide to publicity. The book starts with a clear delineation between publicity and advertising. The main difference is stated as one of categories: publicity is part of public relations while advertising is part of marketing. While publicity is “free” and advertisements are paid for, the difference is not so much dictated by cost as it is by the implications that these separate mediums carry.

The Advantages of Publicity

The world of public relations holds powers untapped by that of marketing, so getting your company into this world can be beneficial in a number of ways:

1. Publicity lends credibility. Beckwith states, “Publicity is more powerful and more influential than advertising. That’s because publicity is usually linked to newsworthy events or information that make it useful or interesting. Studies at the Harvard Business School estimate that a news item that refers to your product, company, or service is worth ten times more than the advertising cost of that space or air time. That extra value—that additional credibility—is because of the implied editorial endorsement of the press.”

2. Publicity establishes expertise.  Anyone can say they’re an expert in their industry; that statement doesn’t have credibility until a trustworthy third party agrees. The media is a widely regarded source of objective and credible information.

3. Publicity educates. An important part of public relations is offering free educational content. This content is perceived as generosity, but in the meantime it also establishes your company as a thought leader and increases brand awareness.

4. Publicity sells.  Though the mediums are different, public relations and marketing have a common goal: to increase company revenue. Good publicity can bring in sales the same way that good marketing can—just through a different channel.

Create a Commotion

A press release is the centerpiece of any publicity plan, and there are several valid reasons to write a press release, including the announcement of a new product or service, a grand opening, a special event, new personnel, a large charitable donation or a contest announcement.

If you don’t have anything to announce, don’t be discouraged. Beckwith offers some key ways to create news:

  • "Offer advice in the form of tips."  Show that you are an expert in your industry by offering tangible, relevant advice in the form of a tip sheet.
  • "Conduct a survey and announce the results." A survey will not only capture media attention; it’s also a great way for you to research the needs and opinions of your customers.
  • "Make a local connection to a national trend or news development." Use statistics to illustrate a national trend, and show how your company is a part of that trend.
  • "Create a holiday or seasonal tie-in." Holiday-related stories can often be predictable; make your company stand out by finding a creative way to link your products and services to the holidays.

Know Your Publicity Formats

While the press release is the most common format for news, there are a variety of other formats you can use for specific kinds of publicity. Beckwith gives a rundown of the most widely used formats:

Press release: Use this format only for news and announcements. If you don’t have an announcement to make, choose a format more appropriate for your content.

Tip sheet: This is a specific type of press release, designed to offer expert advice, and arranged by numbers or bullet points.

Pitch letter: Pitch letters are used to propose an article idea. To sell your media contact on your idea, you must prove that it will interest readers.

Press kit: These are used when there is a large amount of information to disperse. They must include a press release and at least one other piece of information.

Backgrounder: Backgrounders provide background information (including biographical information, company history, product overviews, etc.) and are usually found in press kits or attached to pitch letters.

Case history: These are real-life accounts of how your company's product solved a problem or addressed a need.

Opinion article (Op-Ed): An op-ed is an editorial article written on a current topic, and used to shape public opinion.

Alert the Media!

So what do you do with publicity material once it’s ready? Beckwith outlines a three step process for getting your information into the right hands:

1. Identify the media sources that best reach your target audience
2. Determine which editors at those outlets would be interested in your news
3. Use the proper format when delivering information

To find the right media contacts, you could consult a media directory or use a press release distribution service.  Bacon’s and PR Newswire are two commonly used sites that have earned credibility with the media (for more distribution sites, see below).  Compare the services of several press release distributor sites to determine which will best suit your needs.

In Review

Complete Publicity Plans is an easy-to-read and comprehensive source for everything a company needs to know about PR. In addition to the information reviewed here, Beckwith also offers tips on calling a press conference, planning a special event and being interviewed. She gives advice on writing press releases, pitch letters, articles, case histories and public service announcements. The book also includes an array of publicity plan samples. Beckwith’s book is an excellent guide for any self-starter looking to formulate a publicity plan for their company.

For more information, visit these websites:

How To Obtain Free Publicity

The Elements of a Press Kit

Beckwith Communications

Popular press release distribution sites:


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September 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Internet: the second generation

Posted on September 08, 2006 by Kathryn Regina.

If you have ears, you’ve probably heard people talking about “Web 2.0.” But for many of us, ubiquitous phrases like this can be hard to pin down and define (just think of similarly popular words like “solutions” and “credibility.”)

According to Wikipedia, “Web 2.0 is a phrase coined by O'Reilly Media in 2004 to refer to a supposed second-generation of Internet-based services that let people collaborate and share information online in new ways — such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies. O'Reilly Media, in collaboration with MediaLive International, used the phrase as a title for a series of conferences and since then it has become a popular, though ill-defined and often criticized, buzzword amongst the technical and marketing communities. Alluding to the version-numbers that commonly designate software upgrades, the phrase ‘Web 2.0’ hints at an improved form of the World Wide Web, and the term has been in use for several years.”

For those that need further definitions:

Social networking sites—The pop culture version of Web 2.0, the most popular networking sites are myspace.com and friendster.com. Dating sites like match.com can also fall into this category.

Wiki—a website that allows visitors to add or edit content, thus enabling “collaborative authoring.” The largest example of this is Wikipedia—a free-content multilingual encyclopedia project. For interested etymology nerds, Wikipedia states that the “first such software to be called a wiki, WikiWikiWeb, is named after the "Wiki Wiki" line of Chance RT-52 buses in Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii. ("Wiki wiki" means "quick" or "hurry" in Hawai'ian, and also refers to a type of fish native to the islands).” Wiki is also thought to be a backronym for “what I know is.” (A backronym is a type of acronym that starts as a word with its own meaning and is later given acronym status).

Folksonomy—a classification methodology of collaboratively generated, open-ended labels that categorize web content. Folksonomy is a portmanteau (see my last blog entry) of folks and taxonomy, to indicate that the authors of the labeling system are also the users of the content to which the labels are applied.  These labels are commonly known as tags and the labeling process is called tagging.

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September 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack